The members of hard rockers Jay Wud hail from far and wide; Lebanon, Serbia, USA and Latvia, yet they ultimately call Dubai their home. Since forming in 2010, Lebanese frontman Wud, Serbian-born guitarist Bojan Preradovic, Latvian bassist Eriks Dilevs and American drummer Joe Rickard, have collectively been rising the ranks in the Middle East through their brand of metallic hard rock, and high profile support slots with Guns N’ Roses and Motley Crue.
With their third LP, ‘Transitions’, the quartet look to achieve success further afield, bringing acclaimed producer Howard Benson (My Chemical Romance) into the fold. Packed with an abundance of riffs and soaring hooks, Jay Wud tick all the right boxes with ‘Transitions’ as they aim to take on the world.
Nevertheless, with Dubai being recognised as one of the major cities of the Middle East, we asked guitarist and backing vocalist Bojan Preradovic to highlight five acts from the transcontinental region to check out.
Considering the sound of our new record, ‘Transitions’, people might be expecting heavier, metal artists on this list. If that’s the case, I hate to disappoint, but I feel that the most poignant music that’s come out of our region has been of the alternative/indie variety. Also, pretty much everyone is from or is based in Lebanon. I know that seems biased, but that’s where I grew up, and where Jay and I met. I was born in Belgrade, but Beirut is home, and its art both affects us as songwriters and forms the lens through which we understand music.
Though he’s a contemporary, Gurumiran (AKA Miran Gurunian) has been a huge influence on me personally. One of his previous bands, Blend, were the first alt-rock outfit in the region to get signed to a major label and were genuine pioneers in the scene.
His first solo record, ‘Aberrance’, is likewise one of the most unique things to come out of the Middle East in the past decade. Miran’s voice is so hauntingly anguished and unsettlingly distinctive that it can’t help but get under your skin. In the haze of brooding EDM arrangements, his inimitable guitar work, and that oriental tinge that has come to define his sound since the Blend days, this is an artist whose work has – whether they recognize it or not – paved the way for almost everyone in the Middle East indie scene that has followed since he first emerged.
These guys are a trio with an intensity the likes of which you probably haven’t seen since Nirvana. I can’t think of a regional band that delivers a more hopeful message about the tragic circumstances that have shaped their existence with such forceful torment and delightful dissonance. The boys are Syrian exiles, forced to flee their birthplace and find a new home in Beirut, and in ‘Under Pressure’, they exorcise the demons with such cathartic abandon, it literally takes your breath away. We played a show with them in 2015, and their musicianship and versatility just blows you away. Their name literally means “Pressure Cooker”, which is fitting, because they sure know how to blow off steam.
The Wanton Bishops
Led by the loose verbal cannon and charismatic bluesman Nader Mansour, the Bishops have taken the Middle East – and recently, the world at large – by storm with their unforgiving brand of no-punches-pulled blues rock. We’ve shared the stage with them twice – once in India, and another time in Dubai – and they always put on a brutal show. While ‘Sleep With The Lights On’ is their best-known track that has cemented their status as one of Lebanon/Middle East’s most prominent exports, their new EP makes a much more courageous foray into fusing their core, blues rock sound with oriental-infused electronica. They could have played it safe and stuck with what had raised so many eyebrows in the first place, but opted for the riskier, potentially much more rewarding route. You’ve got to have balls to do that.
After Blend broke up, Miran put another band together, fronted by female vocal tornado, Erin Mikaelian. I still remember the first time I saw Pindoll play this live. The whole thing is just absolute, beautiful madness. For example, on ‘Begging, Twisted Times’, Erin’s vocals are wonderfully neurotic, and that walking bass line is the vessel that carries the insanity of it all. And then Miran’s mad scientist lead at the end just crashes into you like a comet. It’s one of those songs that leaves you going, “Fuck, give me another 3 minutes of this.”
Although (London-based) Nadine has been putting music out for more than 15 years, she’d just released a John Parish-produced record earlier this year – the most definitive statement to date of an extraordinary songwriting and vocal talent. I’ve always been intrigued by her work. The image that her voice conjures is “a storm that whispers to you”. It’s elegant and gentle, and yet raucous and so provocative. There are very few people in the world that are able to carry a piece of music with just their voice and graceful instrumentation. Nadine is one such incredibly gifted artist.
‘Transitions’ by Jay Wud is out now.